Pumpkin Polenta – Creamy or Crispy Bites
I was invited to sign cookbooks at Berry Patch Farm’s annual Pumpkin Festival this past weekend, and they requested a food sample featuring pumpkin, possibly for 500 guests. Yikes, that’s a lot of tastes! I came up with the idea to make a pumpkin polenta (I actually used a variety of winter squash to use up what I had from my CSA harvest). It was great just creamy like this and would make a great side dish or base for a ragu sauce.But I spread it onto baking sheets to chill, cut it into cubes, and baked it until crispy to serve at the festival. Both ways are yummy, but the crispy bites take longer to make. I used rosemary and oregano for the herbs, but use whatever you have on hand. And make sure you freshly grate your nutmeg – it makes all the difference!
- 3 pounds pumpkin
- ¼ cup milk
- 9 cups chicken stock (or water)
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 stick butter, cubed
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, chives, or thyme)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin(s) in half and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner, and bake until soft, about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove and cool slightly before scooping the meat of the pumpkin into a food processor; add milk and puree until smooth. Set aside while you cook the polenta.
- Heat the stock in a large saucepan over high heat until boiling. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Continue to whisk until the polenta starts to thicken, then cover and continue to cook until the grains are tender, stirring frequently, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the pumpkin puree, butter and herbs. If needed add more salt and pepper.
- Spray a rimmed 16 x 12 x 1-inch sheet pan with cooking spray, then pour the mixture into the pan. Use a spatula to smooth the polenta, and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about four hours or overnight.
- Remove the plastic wrap and cover the pan with a cutting board and flip it over to remove the polenta. Cut the polenta into pieces (use a knife to quickly cut into squares or cookie cutters to cut into other shapes).
- To cook just a few pieces at a time, spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray or melt a little butter in the pan over medium high heat and add a few polenta pieces. Cook about two minutes on each side and drain on a paper towel. To cook all of the polenta pieces at once, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray and then arrange pieces on the two baking sheets. Spray the polenta pieces themselves with some cooking spray and bake until the edges start to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.